Songs for the Soul

I’ve written about comfort food before, but pizza isn’t the only thing with powerful nostalgic properties. My last article was about the psychological reasoning behind our cravings for pizza, chocolate chip cookies, whatever your flavor. Certain foods can be comforting because they're associated with happy times or relationships, but food isn't the only thing with that particular superpower.

There's also music, which many believe has countless psychological benefits. In 2013, researchers from Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany and Ohio State University teamed up to explore the psychological functions of music listening.[1] They found that music improves our moods and helps us process our feelings. Music therapy is used to treat symptoms of dementia and increase the responsiveness of antidepressants.

It makes sense if you think about it, right? Have you ever listened to sappy songs after a breakup? Don't you listen to music at work? Not to mention- aren't music and food usually the first things that come to mind when thinking about another culture. The right playlist can make your morning commute more tolerable, your workout more invigorating or your getting-ready-for-bed routine more relaxing. So of course it can have the same soothing effect as your grandma's chicken soup.

I thought it would be fun to borrow from Being In Tune and make a playlist packed with the songs we associate with good times. I've been thinking a lot about mine, and here it is: 60 minutes (the length of a '90s-era mix tape) of my 15 most nostalgic songs:


℗ 2009 EMI Records Ltd.


01. "Come on Eileen," Dexy's Midnight Runners (4:11)

If you don't know my mom as "Come on Eileen," you're probably not my real friend.

02. "Twist and Shout," The Beatles (2:05)

Everyone's got a movie that's definitive of their childhood, right? Mine is Ferris Bueller's Day Off (and also Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, but that doesn't have an iconic musical number).

03. "No Rain," Blind Melon (3:37)

The unmistakable opening riff instantly brings me back to 1994, when I'd watch music videos at my dad's house, a novelty since I didn't have cable at home. This one was in heavy rotation, which was convenient because it was my favorite (the Bee Girl!).


℗ 1992 Capitol Records, Inc.


04. "Hey Jealousy," Gin Blossoms (3:56)

"Hey Jealousy" is one my other forever favorites I learned from watching MTV at my dad's, even though I had the name wrong for several years. I thought it was "Hey Justine," like Justine was the girl with whom he blew the whole thing years ago.

05. "Slam," Onyx (3:38)

That same year for Christmas, I got a boombox, which had a blank tape inserted at all times, in case I needed to fly across the room and press record. The single for this song was my first CD.

06. "I Walk Alone," Oleander (4:27)

After we finally got cable in the house, I was a teenage loser and a big Real World watcher. The Hawaii season was my favorite and all these years later, a lot of its soundtrack is still imprinted in my brain. Whenever this song pops up on my Spotify, I'm mentally like, "Yeah, Amaya, you TELL them!"… I’m so embarrassed that I just wrote that.

07. "Amber," 311 (2:58)

My not-so-great high school years were followed up by an amazing college experience. "Amber" was the song of my freshman year/the beginning of my social turnaround.

08. "Proud Mary," Creedence Clearwater Revival (3:07)

When I was 19, I got my first job that wasn't something wretched that only teenagers would do. I worked at a smoothie place and felt like a baller, making $10/hour (plus tips!). My assistant manager had CCR's greatest hits CD on constant rotation.

09. "Mr. Brightside," The Killers (3:43)

I studied abroad in London my junior year, which was so long ago that I had a roommate who owned a camcorder. After we got home, he made a video set to "Mr. Brightside" playing in the background. To this day, when I hear Brandon Flowers sing about coming out of his cage and doing just fine, I am instantly transported to London in 2005.

10. "Hot n Cold," Katy Perry (3:40)

In June 2008, I moved to Las Vegas to do my final project for grad school. "Hot n Cold" is the song that's most evocative of that fun year because it was playing everywhere, all the time.

11. "Theme From New York, New York," Frank Sinatra (3:16)

In between grad school and starting my actual career, I worked at Bloomingdale’s, where Frank Sinatra opens the store every morning. It seemed kind of miserable to me at the time, but looking back, I had so much fun working there. I met a lot of people who are still my good friends today, and finally made enough money that I could move out of my mom's house.


℗ 2010 Frank Sinatra Enterprises, LLC


12. "Rock You Like a Hurricane," The Scorpions (4:11)

Speaking of making lasting friendships at Bloomingdale’s, my first summer there was an absolute blast. And for whatever reason, this song always came up whenever we'd collectively blow $50 on bar jukeboxes.

13. "Bed of Roses," Bon Jovi (6:33)

This is my favorite song in the world and also the highlight of my favorite concert ever: Bon Jovi at Met Life.

14. "Ride wit Me," Nelly (4:51)

Have you ever had the opportunity to take your dream vacation? I did, in 2015, when I went to Croatia (my number one place to visit for years). I learned that Croatians love early 2000s hip-hop, all of which now reminds me of that trip.

15. "You Can Call Me Al," Paul Simon (4:40)

There's not really any nostalgic value to this song, but it just makes me smile. How could it not?


Do you have any memories associated with these songs?

If you were going to make a playlist of songs you associate with good times, what would be on it?

Share your comments at the bottom of the page.


Special thanks to our source: